The care and feeding of archaeologists

Do you ever wonder how dig workers get fed? I figured it was either hotel food or camping food, but the truth turns out to be a lot more interesting (and delicious) than that.

Evans came to the role of dig cook, which she adores, more by chance than planning. About 10 years ago her husband, who has a long-standing interest in archaeology, spotted an advertisement from a British academic looking for someone to cook for 15 people at an excavation site in Cyprus.

“I thought, 15 people, I could do that,” Evans says. “If someone asks me to cook for their party, I get really excited.

“I’ve done catering, worked in restaurants and cafes and done a lot of my friends’ weddings but I had never thought of cooking as a way of travelling and seeing other parts of the world.”

She got the job. “Then I had to get an atlas and look up exactly where Cyprus was.”

Much coolness ensues. Apparently archaeologists eat two breakfasts because they start so early in the morning and then try to avoid the midday heat.

She never knows what sort of cooking apparatus she’s going to find on site, whether it’s mud brick ovens or old Pepsi fridges like the 50’s one with the built-in bottle opener in Back to the Future.

But damn, she scores some fantastic produce from the locals. Who needs electricity when you’ve got this:

“One man used to turn up with 48 huge, perfect peaches on a tray, straight from the tree. Local women used to give me olives. They used to make haloumi in one village and we used to buy big buckets of it.”


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Comment by Tiffany
2008-05-20 22:38:22

Field school is actually where I learned a great deal about cooking, because we all had to share dinner responsibilities. I probably use what I learned in field school almost everyday, just in the kitchen and not in the field. My degree was not a total loss!

Comment by livius drusus
2008-05-21 04:41:40

Wait, what? Is this lawyer field school or do you have a degree in archaeology I don’t know about?

Comment by Tiffany
2008-05-21 07:45:36

Ha. Lawyer field school–I can’t decide whether I would like that or not. My undergraduate degree is in Anthropology and my focus within the degree was archaeology. I spent a summer at Kolomoki Mounds State Park in southwest Georgia, learning how to dig. It was ridiculously fun.

How did I end up being a lawyer? Sigh.

Comment by livius drusus
2008-05-21 14:04:56

That is so cool. You’d mentioned having been on digs before, but I didn’t realize (or remember) it was all official and school-like.

What inspired you to switch to law? Because, srsly, that’s just crazeh.

Comment by Tiffany
2008-05-21 23:20:30

Oh, I watched a 60 minutes about the death of a child under state supervision, and then read tons about health care/foster care/prison/homeless/various social service failure and reform. That led me to think about managing those sorts of programs, which led to the whole JD/MPA degree.

Thanks for asking–sometimes when I think about what I could be doing I forget how I got here.

Comment by Dina
2008-05-22 03:06:41

If I may butt in here, good on ya, Tiffany.

Comment by livius drusus
2008-05-22 09:05:17


Comment by livius drusus
2008-05-22 09:04:39

Okay that’s not at all crazeh. That’s a calling, and it’s a great one.

Comment by Erin
2008-05-23 10:28:41

I often forget why I’m an archaeologist, especially when I’ve spent a cold and rainy day in the library surrounded by old musty German encyclopedias. However, I do not have any noble calling. I like dirt. I like to dig in it. I like to find stuff.

Good on you for doing something that makes a difference! After all, some day you can retire and go back out on digs, that door never closes (some archaeologist has left it propped open with an old dig boot)!

Comment by livius drusus
2008-05-23 15:50:00

Good point, Erin. You’re never too old to play in the dirt.

Comment by Dina
2008-05-22 03:07:41

Yum, I’ll follow this cook to any dig.

Comment by livius drusus
2008-05-22 09:06:12

No kidding. Those circular vats of pasta look damn good to me.

Comment by Erin
2008-05-23 10:23:27

I’ve never been on a dig where we had a cook! It sounds rather yummy – though I must admit, one of the joys of our dig is complaining about the abundance of chicken, the lack of veg and the all around horribleness of the food. We can get away with it because we’re being fed from a cafeteria (quantity over quality for sure) and we’ve all had far worse. But if we had a cook, I think our little fun would be over. You can’t really complain about the food when your cook has had to prepare food by gas-light on a rickety stove in the middle of nowhere, she’d probably poison everyone.

Comment by Dina
2008-05-23 13:45:02

It was on a French dig here in Israel that I first ate Nutella sandwiches and learned to like arak. C’est vrai!

Comment by livius drusus
2008-05-23 15:53:53

Nutella is the food of the gods, my friend. I haven’t tried arak, but I love all forms of licorice-flavored distillates.

Comment by livius drusus
2008-05-23 15:52:07

I know I’d poison your whiny asses. :stare:

You should totally try to extort good produce from the locals, though. Even without a dedicated cook, I bet there are opportunities to curry favor with people in a position to hook you up with a few dozen delicious peaches.

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September 2021


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